The Civil War in Cass County

Locally referred to as The Burnt District due to the long-reaching effects of General Order No. 11, Cass County residents faced an incomprehensible level of violence and suffering during the Civil War. It was an area where brother fought brother, where Northern and Southern sentiments ran parallel and intersected, often within the same house. Cass County sat along the fault lines of the growing tension along the border, and the consequences of this could not go on unfelt forever.

Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr.’s directive on August 23, 1863 ordered the forcible evacuation of the rural areas in Cass, Jackson, Bates, Vernon counties. In theory, General Order No. 11 sought to relocate civilians to local military towns and away from most of the fighting, as well as root out pro-Confederate guerilla forces along the border. In practice, however, the implementation of the Order quickly ran into serious complications. Ewing was cautioned multiple times, even by President Lincoln himself, to prevent indiscriminate, vigilante enforcement of this forced evacuation. These warnings were ignored. Ewing proved incapable of controlling the looting, burning, killing, and other myriad cruelties perpetrated against civilians.

Even after the war finally ended, this and other areas affected by the skirmishing along the Missouri-Kansas Border would never be the same. Many who had left with nothing but what they could carry as they fled did not return, for there was nothing here to return to. The Stern Visitations Exhibit seeks to document this time in Cass County history, preserving these stories for future generations so that they may both experience and learn from the past.

About the Stern Visitations Exhibit

Exploring the story of the Civil War in Cass County, Missouri, this 18-panel exhibit was a joint project between the Cass County Public Library, the Cass County Historical Society, and Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area (FFNHA). Panel topics cover the full breadth of what it was like to live in Cass County and the surrounding area through the harrowing gauntlet of war. Discover the stories of women and slaves, aggression along the border, Order Number 11 and the exodus it caused along with many other events before, during, and after the war. These topics can be explored in detail by viewing the page dedicated to each panel, which can be accessed through the links provided at the top of this page or by scanning the QR code located on the panel or display card.

Funding for the Stern Visitations Exhibit was provided by a grant from Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area and matched in-kind by the work of researchers from the Genealogy Branch of the Cass County Public Library and the Cass County Historical Society.

Part of the exhibit includes an interactive map. Visitors can explore each area of Cass County leading up to and during the Civil War. You can access that interactive map below.

Traveling Panels

The Stern Visitation panels were designed to be portable and easy to set up with the goal of facilitating travel. The exhibit is available for loan, both partial and in its entirety, to be displayed in local libraries, organizations, and repositories. For more information regarding a short or long-term loan of the Stern Visitations Exhibit, contact the Cass County Public Library Genealogy Branch at (816) 884-6285 or by email at